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WR Holmes' challenge: learning to walk again

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP)

Rex Ryan complained about all the dropped passes by his receivers on the first day of minicamp. On the second day, things didn't get any better.

At least the New York Jets' top receiver didn't have any bobbles: Santonio Holmes didn't practice. He won't for a while.

Holmes has been out since last September, when he broke his left foot. He spoke Wednesday about his long recovery and ''learning to walk again.''

And he winced when asked about all the drops.

''It's been a struggle,'' Holmes said after watching Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill and tight end Jeff Cumberland come up with stone hands. ''Something we as receivers rely on is catching the ball. You have those opportunities, you have to take advantage of them.

''It's early and they're getting accustomed to everyone.''

While they do - New York has 15 wide receivers and six tight ends at the three-day minicamp - Holmes rides a stationary bike, does rehab, and tries to stay patient.

The biggest challenge, the eight-year veteran admitted, has been doing things that once came naturally.

''Learning to walk again and getting the feeling of my body moving in everyday motion that you are so accustomed to all your life,'' Holmes said. ''Happy to be walking again.''

Holmes wouldn't say when he might begin running, and wouldn't commit to being on the field when training camp opens at the end of July in Cortland, N.Y. He likes the way his rehab has gone, with the latest step being treatment in a hyperbaric chamber, but he is limited in everything he does physically.

The Jets have no plans to rush him, but judging by what Ryan and new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have seen on the practice field from their wideouts, having Holmes ready for the Sept. 8 opener against Tampa Bay is a must.

''It will be good to get Santonio back,'' Kerley said. ''He has to do his thing, take his time and get healed up. You don't want to bring him back too early and then (he) reinjures his foot again. He'll be big part of the offense.''

Holmes will need to be, because New York has no proven receivers without him. Oh, sure, tight end Kellen Winslow has a nice resume, but he's trying to come back from severe knee problems, appeared in only one game last season for New England, and is in minicamp on a tryout basis.

Even if Winslow can replicate some of his previous performances, Holmes has to be the main man.

But Holmes, who spent time this offseason taking classes at Ohio State, is learning a new offense with the Jets, too. He's never played in the West Coast variation that Mornhinweg has brought with him.

''It's been exciting,'' he said of an offense that Mornhinweg has made work in most of his previous stops, including the 49ers and Eagles. ''Being known as a route runner and it's something I pride myself on, and to have the opportunity to learn from a coordinator who has been at it for 20 years.''

Holmes actually has taken on the role of mentor for Kerley and Hill and some of the other young receivers in Jets camp. Hill, who at 6-foot-4, 215 with blazing speed could be a game-breaker - if he ever learns to hold onto the ball - could be a brilliant complement for Holmes down the line.

But he is very raw.

''Santonio has been a 100 percent support system (for me) since last year,'' Hill said. ''He's teaching us stuff (about) off-the-field issues and on-the-field issues. Just making sure that we're doing (the) right thing, staying into it if we're not practicing or anything like that, making sure we're still in it mentally since we can't be out there physically. He's been a great support system, just like Coach Sanjay (Lal, the receivers coach) and Coach Marty. Just making sure they're coaching us up as much as they can.''

That's not the role Holmes wants, of course. After taking a pay cut to remain with the Jets, he expects to team with either incumbent Mark Sanchez or rookie Geno Smith the way he did with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. All Holmes did in the Steel City was make the winning catch in the 2009 Super Bowl and earn MVP honors for that game.

But for now, he's not rushing anything.

''I wouldn't say that at all,'' Holmes said when asked if watching from the sideline is frustrating. ''It's an opportunity for me to teach, to learn more, to educate myself about the game.''

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Online: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tagged: Jets, Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill

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